On 30 March 2019, the EUSS was fully implemented under UK immigration rules, as a post-Brexit system. This allows EEA and Swiss citizens, and their family members, to continue to live and work in the UK – EEA is short for the European Economic Area comprising the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
Successful EUSS applicants will have their immigration status in the UK protected, regardless of Brexit, by being granted Pre-settled or Settled status and they will be able to work without sponsorship.
Pre-settled status is essentially a 5-year visa meaning that the holder can usually apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) once they are eligible.
Settled status is ILR which is very similar to permanent residence. Individuals may be eligible to apply to become British citizens.
Are there any deadlines?
The deadline to make an application under the EUSS is currently:
- 31 December 2020 in a no-deal situation (for those resident in the UK on/before Brexit takes place); or
- 30 June 2021, if the draft Withdrawal Agreement is ratified and implemented (for individuals who are resident in the UK on/before 31 December 2020)
Depending on what happens with Brexit, these dates may change. If the deadline is missed, individuals may be in the UK unlawfully; however, there is a draft policy which, if implemented, may allow individuals to apply for “European Temporary Leave to Remain”.
What should businesses do?
Given the uncertainties, and with Brexit now due to take place on 31 October 2019, employers may wish to encourage EEA staff (and non-EEA family members) to consider submitting a free online application under the EUSS.
As the UK currently remains a member of the EU, individuals can continue to exercise “Treaty Rights” i.e. British citizens can still move to the EEA and Switzerland to work; likewise EEA and Swiss citizens can come to the UK to work.
The EUSS is currently operating in tandem with the “system” of Treaty Rights, and it is entirely possible that prospective employees will present evidence of having a “right to work” (RTW), in hardcopy format as evidence that they can and are exercising Treaty Rights. Alternatively, digital confirmation of EUSS status, might be presented without additional documents.
When carrying out RTW checks, which should take place for ALL employees regardless of their perceived nationality (to minimise any potential allegations of discrimination), employers will need to be aware of the above. Traditionally, RTW checks are carried out by taking photocopies of acceptable original documents; however, employers may now need to carry out online checks instead.
Employers should diarise important dates and carry out follow-up RTW checks where necessary. Employment of an individual without a RTW, may put you as an employer at risk and you could be subject to a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, and/or face criminal sanctions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.